So reports Ammon Shea, the tireless, word-obsessed, and more than slightly masochistic author of Reading the OED. The word lover's Mount Everest, the OED has enthralled logophiles since its initial publication 80 years ago. Weighing in at 137 pounds, it is the dictionary to end all dictionaries.
In 26 chapters filled with sharp wit, sheer delight, and a documentarian's keen eye, Shea shares his year inside the OED, delivering a hair-pulling, eye-crossing account of reading every word, and revealing the most obscure, hilarious, and wonderful gems he discovers along the way.
©2008 Ammon Shea; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers
By the time I got to the letter "D" I realized I had to be able to see the words, not just hear them, so I bought a hardback copy. This is a delightful book for word enthusiasts, and the reader does a fine job moving things along with wit and humor. Should you read or listen to this book? Yes, yes, yes, YES. (see epizeuxis)
I liked the story; the narration was great! However, the material flies by - I'll need to read the print version later to see what I might've missed.
Bought the audio version first, and realized that yep, I needed it in print to see what the words looked like. Glad I have the audio version, though, as a pronunciation guide and because I find it worth listening to.
Normally I love memoirs of someone doing something nutty for a year. But sadly, this one didn't live up to my expectations. I actually have a friend who owns the OED. I was with him when he bought it at The Strand in New York (it came with a magnifying glass). I love weird words, the stories behind them, and so I thought this book would be perfect. And it wasn't.
I think it might have been improved in print. There are 26 chapters, one for each letter, and at the end of each chapter there's a list of words with definitions and Mr. Shea's opinions about them. Those were difficult on audio. Not only could you not skim through them as most people reading the print version would have done, but also if one was interesting, you'd have to rewind to figure out what the word was, and that certainly never happened, so the point of those lists was lost on audio (although I give props to the narrator as those must have been supremely difficult parts for him to read.)
Also something I usually like about these books is that it's a fairly ordinary, identifiable person who's doing the nutty thing. But Mr. Ammon is a collector of dictionaries who reads them for fun. This project, while long, really isn't a stretch for him at all. And he's a bit odd. He even goes to a dictionary convention and all the people there found his project very weird. And while we do hear a lot about him looking for the right library, his headaches and glasses, how difficult it is to read the OED outside, we really almost never hear anything about his daily, everyday life. I really didn't feel like I got to know him at all which is strange for a memoir. So while it's well-written and very well-narrated, I think one would have to already have an abiding love of dictionaries to truly love this book.
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